Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dear Mr. Osteen

I found this quote especially interesting from Wesleyan scholar, Ben Witherington's blog (you can link to his blog from my "Other Sites That Are Worth Your Time" section). The comments are also interesting. I thought his title was telling.

Memo to Mr. Osteen from John Wesley

"I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches."

John Wesley (1703-1791)

What does Jesus teach about wealth? What does his lifestyle reveal about how Christians should view wealth and possessions?Thoughts?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Prayer for Worship: 07 October 2007

Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, to you and to the Son and the to Spirit, are all glory and praise and honor and wisdom and strength. You three are God alone in unity. This morning with the creatures around your throne we join in saying, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” We also join in singing “to him who lives forever and ever … Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and because of your will they existed, and were created.”

Our Father in Heaven, your most holy Word instructs us this morning that our citizenship is in heaven. We must confess Lord God that often times; heaven seems so very far from where we are here on earth. We pray as we meet here this morning, we who together comprise your Temple, the place where you dwell by the Spirit, that we would be constantly aware of your desire for this place to be where heaven and earth overlap. Help us dear Lord to feel this morning that our citizenship is in heaven.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, we praise you this morning as the Lamb on the throne who rules as King of kings and Lord of lords from the right hand of our Father. We also praise you as our soon coming King. We eagerly wait for you this morning to bring from heaven our salvation when you “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of [your] glory.” It is our prayer that very soon the Father would exert his eternal power through you, to subject all things to yourself. We long for that day when all your enemies, when all disease, when all catastrophes, when all hunger, when all injustice, when all pain, and when all tears, will be brought into submission to your Lordship. How long O Lord? How long O Lord? How long O Lord? Even so come quickly Lord Jesus. Please give us a foretaste this morning of that eternal city for which we wait.

Holy Spirit, Breath of the Loving God, we need you to breathe into us the ability to stand firm while we wait. Help us stand firm by living in harmony together. May each of us be willing to lay down our rights and even our lives for the sake of the gospel. Please work within us here on earth the unity shared by Our Most Holy Father and His Beloved Eternal Son. We dedicate this service to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Questions About "Christian Growth"

Below is text from a dear friend's blog. He asks a very crucial question to which I have responded.

I found this blurb associated with a Bible teacher's resume: "a passion for helping people grow in an intimate relationship with God through the study of His Word."

Two questions (and their related questions) come to mind:

Is the study of God's word the only way of growing as a Christian? Is that the only way one can help Christians grow?
Is "an intimate relationship with God" the goal of Christian growth? What does "an intimate relationship with God" mean? What does it look like?
What do you think?

Here's my response.

1. The study of God's word is not the only way of growing as a Christian? If that were true then Christian growth would be very difficult if not impossible for the illiterate Christian, the Christian for whom the Bible has not been translated, etc. The way we help our brothers and sisters toward Christian growth is to lead them into the fellowship of the Trinity. We lead them into that communion as we lead them toward Bible study and meditation, prayer, fasting, confession, partaking the sacraments, suffering, etc. Truly our Christian life comes from partaking of Christ (John 6.33, 52-58). I believe the evangelical infatuation with Bible study as the catalyst for spiritual growth betrays an Enlightenment influence. Bible knowledge is quantifiable. If I can recite for you summaries of each NT book, I have certifiable evidence that I am “spiritual.” This is a notion of spirituality that is void of mystery. When we embrace mystery we are free to let Jesus' words in John 6 speak for themselves. I cannot verify to my congregation how eating bread and drinking wine imparts Christ and his eternal life unto them. But I believe because that is where the Church has led me.

2. I struggle with the notion of “an intimate relationship.” First, it sounds to me a bit perverted. In his Prayer, Jesus invites his followers to join him in praying to God as Father. So as I link in faith to Jesus and his family of those who obey God (Mark 3.35), I become a member of God’s family as a brother of Jesus and son of God. Therefore, the NT instructs me to relate to Jesus as my brother and God as my Father (Rom 8.15-17; Gal 3-4). Not a relationship I would refer to as intimate.
The notion of an intimate relationship also sounds very individualistic. When the NT speaks of Christian growth and maturity it most often refers to the growth of the Body not just one member (see Eph 4.16). Therefore, my individual growth is only important insofar as it contributes to the growth of Christ’s Body the church. St. Paul states very clearly that spirituality is strictly connected to relationships in the church (1 Cor 3.1-4), relationships that are necessary for my growth and maturity.